What Do You Take Away from FASH455?

I encourage everyone to watch the two short videos above, which provide an excellent wrap-up for FASH455 and remind us of the meaning and significance of our course. BTW, the names of several experts featured in the video should sound familiar to you, such as David Spooner (former U.S. Chief Textile Negotiator and Assistant Secretary of Commerce), Julia Hughes (president of the US Fashion Industry Association, USFIA) and Auggie Tantillo (former president of the National Council of Textile Organizations, NCTO).

First of all, I hope students can take away essential knowledge about textile and apparel (T&A) trade & sourcing from FASH455. As you may recall from the video, in FASH455, we’ve examined the phenomenon of globalization and its profound social, economic and political implications. We also discussed various trade theories and the general evolution pattern of a country’s T&A industry and its close relationship with that country’s overall industrialization process. We further explored three primary T&A supply chains in the world (namely the Western-Hemisphere supply chain, the flying geese model in Asia, and the phenomenon of intra-region T&A trade in Europe). Last but not least, we looked at unique and critical trade policies that matter significantly to the T&A sector (e.g., U.S.-China tariff war and the yarn-forward rules of origin) as well as the complicated factors behind the making of these trade policies. Whether your dream job is to be a fashion designer, buyer, merchandiser, sourcing specialist, or marketing analyst, understanding how trade and sourcing work will be highly relevant and beneficial to your future career given the global nature of today’s fashion industry.

Second, I hope FASH455 helps students shape a big-picture vision of the T&A industry in the 21st-century world economy and provides students a fresh new way of looking at the world. Throughout the semester, we’ve examined many critical, timely, and pressing global agendas that are highly relevant to the T&A industry, from the impact of COVID-19 on apparel sourcing and trade, apparel companies’ social responsibility practices, the debate on the textile and apparel provisions in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA or NAFTA2.0)  to the controversy of used clothing trade. It is critical to keep in mind that we wear more than clothes: We also wear the global economy, international business, public policy, and trade politics that make affordable, fashionable, and safe clothes possible and available for hardworking families. This is also the message from many of our distinguished guest speakers this semester, and I do hope you find these special learning events enlightening and inspiring.

Likewise, I hope FASH455 can put students into thinking about why “fashion” matters. A popular misconception is that “fashion and apparel” is just about “sewing,” “fashion magazine,” “shopping” and “Project Runway.” In fact, as one of the largest and most economically influential sectors in the world today, T&A industry plays a critical and unique role in creating jobs, promoting economic development, enhancing human development and reducing poverty. As we mentioned in the class, over 120 million people remain directly employed in the T&A industry globally, and a good proportion of them are females living in poor rural areas. For most developing countries, T&A typically accounts for 70%–90% of their total merchandise exports and provides one of the very few opportunities for these countries to participate in globalization. The spread of COVID-19, in particular, reveals the enormous social and economic impacts of the apparel sector and many problems that need our continuous efforts to make an improvement. 

Last but not least, I hope from taking FASH455, students will take away meaningful questions that can inspire their future study and even life’s pursuit. For example:

  • How has COVID-19 fundamentally and permanently changed the pattern of apparel sourcing and trade?
  • How to make the growth of the global textile and apparel trade more inclusive and equal?
  • How to make sure tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again?
  • How will automation, AI and digital technologies change the future landscape of apparel sourcing, trade, and job opportunities?
  • How to use trade policy as a tool to solve tough global issues such as labor practices and climate change?
  • Is inequality a problem caused by global trade? If global trade is the problem, what can be the alternative?

These questions have no good answers yet. However, they are waiting for you, the young professional and the new generation of leaders, to write the history, based on your knowledge, wisdom, responsibility, courage, and creativity!

So what do you take away from FASH455? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments.

Dr. Sheng Lu

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

14 thoughts on “What Do You Take Away from FASH455?”

  1. My main interest regarding the fashion industry is the anthropology of sustainable fashion, encompassing both the evolution of CSR & sustainability commitments by multinational fashion corporations and the subsequent transition to stakeholder capitalism, and smaller-scale maker movements that reject industrialism and link sustainability with locality. FASH455 has helped me to gain both specific and general understandings about how the fashion industry operates and the historical & geopolitical context for why it operates in this way, which has been instrumental in broadening my perspectives related to my interests. I especially enjoyed learning about the progression of trade theories from 15th century mercantilism to the modern-day international division of labor theory, and how 21st century trade heavily relies on a delicate web of specialized production, globalized trade, and FTAs. I am glad that I was able to take this course during the Covid-19 pandemic, as the foundations of this system are being challenged. It has caused me to think a lot about the future of sourcing for the fashion industry, and whether the pandemic is a strong enough catalyst for the transition to a newer and more sustainable approach to sourcing. As with all of the best classes I have taken so far at UD, I am left with more questions than answers now that we are approaching the final, and I look forward to continuing to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the industry!

  2. Fash455 has been an extremely eye-opening course for me. Not only have I furthered by knowledge of sourcing and trade, but I have learned that fashion is much more complex than trends and runways. The COVID-19 pandemic added an interesting learning element and it was insightful to learn just how the pandemic has effected fashion companies all across the globe. I also liked how many assignments fostered learning by asking for our opinions and ideas. One of my favorite projects was cotton sourcing. Although I thought that I regularly shop in a sustainable way, the cotton sourcing project enlightened me. Even my 100% organic cotton Patagonia t-shirt only received a B rating. Patagonia is a brand that prides themselves on sustainability and they still have much room for improvement. I am also much more interested in a job in sourcing after this course. I love the complexity of sourcing and how many fashion companies are pushing for more sustainable sourcing practices. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and will continue to further my knowledge for sourcing in the future.

  3. This course really opened my eyes to the globalization of the fashion industry and taught me more about trade regulations. I think what I found most interesting was the unit about the western-hemisphere supply chain and the robustness of the US textile industry. I came into the course with the common misconception that most of T&A production and products for the US is outsourced elsewhere. It was fascinating to learn more about trade policy and regulations that allow and promote trade between countries. As someone looking to gain insights about the fashion industry before diving into their career, this course was essential in discussing industry policies. I am much more confident in talking about the complexities of trade and sourcing. It is also a critical time to talk about the effects that covid has had on the industry thus far and look at how the future of the fashion industry could be greatly altered.

  4. FASH 455 was chockfull of incredibly informative material that has definitely shaped my understanding of the fashion industry, especially as it pertains to globalization! With my fashion management minor, it’s super relevant for me to know how fashion moves through supply chains around the world and how developing countries’ factories, like the Rana Plaza, need better management in order to reform practices that have led to tragedy in the past. Globalization deals heavily with stakeholders, and policymakers as they are the leaders with the power to make a change in the industry, so I definitely see how the management aspect of my minor comes into play. In general, the world does need a new surge of innovative thinkers versed on the topics learned in this class so that further developments can be made for the future of fashion. Learning about NAFTA, CAFTA-DR, RCEP, rules of origin, and the power of capital-intensive countries versus labor-intensive countries effectively left an imprint with me such that I think I will remember these notions long after this class ends. While FTAs involve some pretty hefty, complex material, it was worth it to me to take the time to digest the information so that I can apply it to future learning endeavors. It’s really cool to know where my clothes come from or how I might be able to trace their path of production before I picked them up in a store. I’m also fascinated by how these policies impact global supply chains and demonstrate a division of labor that the WTO fervently tries to equalize. Truthfully, I’ve learned so much in this minor as all of the classes leading up to, and including, this one have built on each other that makes me feel like I’m achieving my full potential as a college student getting ready to graduate in the Spring!

  5. What is often speculated as an industry revolving around glitz and glamour, FASH455 taught me that the fashion industry is about so much more than what society makes us think is important. Learning the intricacies of globalization compounded with extensive knowledge on major trade agreements really introduced me to a side of fashion that I have come to really appreciate. Living in a first-world country, it is so easy to get caught up in your own life and what seems problematic is nothing to most of the things many people around the world are enduring from being employed in this sometimes most unforgiving industry. Part of me has known about the hardships that a lot of these women endure just from learning about it in past courses, but FASH455 has taught me the complexity of coming up with solutions to these human rights violations. A lot of times it is much more complicated than big fashion retailers throwing money at the issue. I also think that there was no better time than now to take a course like FASH455. As unfortunate as the COVID-19 pandemic is, it has opened the doors to many discussions that nobody would have dreamed we’d be having a year ago. Incorporating the effect of COVID on globalization as a whole has really created a sense of relevancy, and I enjoyed tailoring our discussions to these specific topics. I feel like I cannot express enough how much I have thoroughly enjoyed this course!

  6. FASH455 is definitely one of the most valuable fashion classes I’ve ever taken at the University of Delaware while also being one of the most interesting! I was worried going into this class because I have no background knowledge on sourcing and trade but even with taking this class over the accelerated winter semester, I can honestly say this is the most I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. Professor Sheng Lu never ceases to amaze me with his detailed and engaging teaching style and still ranks as my number one favorite professor I’ve ever had at UD. He finds a way to make even online asynchronous classes engaging and relevant and makes the content easy to digest. As I go into the summer with my first corporate buying internship, I’m curious to see how I can apply the knowledge I’ve learned in this class in my internship with Burlington and into the future as well. In this class I learned a lot more about not only how global trade deals work but also about the influence of politics as well. I never thought that I would find politics to be so relevant in one of my fashion classes but it really gave me a new depth of understanding how the world works both inside and outside of the fashion industry. I especially liked the unit on the western-hemisphere free trade agreements. I always knew NAFTA (USMCA) and CAFTA-DR existed but I never knew how much it was connected with the US textile and apparel industry. The concept of a country either being “capital intensive” or “labor-intensive” really stuck me as beneficial to know as I feel like this simple concept has explained a lot to me on the basis of WHY we trade with certain countries and which countries are better at producing certain products.

  7. FASH455 has got to be one of my favorite FASH classes I have taken at UD. Professor Lu always jokes that this class is the “least fashionable” class fashion majors will take, however I think it is extremely interesting, informative, and helpful to students who are soon 8entering this industry. FASH455 ties in everything that we’ve learned, applies it to the real world, and shows just how important the textile and apparel industry is in the bigger global picture. I truly enjoyed exploring several different T&A supply chains in the world and how their supply chain models differ from one another. My favorite part of this class was definitely learning about trade policies. As fashion majors, we don’t really see the connection early on in our classes, but then you realize that the T&A industry is deeply affected by political trade policies that are always constantly changing. I’m so glad that I finally understand certain vocabulary terms, like NAFTA/USMCA, free trade agreement (FTA), TPP, etc. I not only feel so much more educated in the US-China tariff war, but also the yarn-forward rules of origin. I better understand why trade policies are so highly debated, as we saw with the yarn forward RoO between the USFIA and NCTO. I think I can go on and on, and list all the things I’ve learned in this class, but at the end of the day, this has just been such an eye-opening experience that I am so happy I got to explore. I will take everything I learned into my future career, continue to learn on my own, and form my own opinions on political issues that relate to the global T&A industry! And while we were not able to meet in-person, I think Professor Lu did a wonderful job transitioning this class into an online format, so thank you!

  8. As the semester comes to a close, I have gained so much knowledge from FASH455. The topics we have discussed really opened my eyes to the globalization of the fashion industry. The class is super informative and interesting to understand the side of the fashion industry that isn’t per say, “fashionable.” Prior to this class, my other classes barely touched on the concept of globalization in the T&A industry and this class really tied any loose strings; making me understand the entire industry and supply chain from manufacturing to the consumers hands. Professor Lu did an excellent job in teaching this course in an online format and it was challenging and allowed me to think harder than base line knowledge. Although hard, I almost think this class should be taught prior to the other fashion courses so we understand the backbone of the industry and how the apparel products are manufactured with the trade policies in the world. Taking this course during the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. Although I would have loved to be in an in person setting, the online format was easy to adjust to and learn. Furthermore, many of the concepts we have learned about made it easy to apply to the real world because of COVID and how it affects globalization and trade in the world. I learn better when topics are relevant and the discussions we had in relation to COVID, help me understand the concepts better and apply them to my assignments. Thank you Professor Lu for making this class so enjoyable!!!

    1. Thank you so much! really enjoy working with you all this semester! Hope when you see the headline about a new US trade agreement reached or a trade war broke out, you’ll think of FASH455 🙂

  9. Fash455 has been one of the most informative classes that I have taken at UD thus far. Prior to starting this class, I was extremely concerned about how I would do in the class. I realized that as long as you put in a good amount of time and effort, would will do well. Dr. Lu is very accommodating and will meet with you on zoom for any questions or concerns. One of my favorite case studies in the class was about the Rana Plana Building collapse. I learned a lot about how little is done in Bangladesh to protect its workers. There is a lot that can be done in order to ensure that tragedies like the Rana Plaza building collapse will never happen again. For starters need to work on implementing mandatory inspections, remediation monitoring, safety training, and a safety and health complaints mechanism. Companies can do this by working with safety organization such as RMG Sustainability Council.

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